Notice the vivid description of smoke in this excerpt from Rebecca Harding Davis’s Life in the Iron Mills:
The following sentences provide examples of the concreteness, evocativeness and plausibility of good descriptive writing.
This paragraph opens the third chapter of Maxine Hong Kingston’s “The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts,” a lyrical account of a Chinese-American girl growing up in California. Notice how Kingston integrates informative and descriptive details in this account of “the metal tube” that holds her mother’s diploma from medical school. She uses color, shape, texture (rust, missing paint, pry marks, and scratches), and smell, where she has a particularly strong metaphor that surprises the reader with its distinctness. The last sentence in the paragraph (not reproduced here) is more about the smell; closing the paragraph with this aspect adds emphasis to it. The order of the description is also logical, as the first response to the closed object is how it looks rather than how it smells when opened.
“My most valuable possession is an old, slightly warped blond guitar―the first instrument I taught myself how to play. It’s nothing fancy, just a Madeira folk guitar, all scuffed and scratched and fingerprinted. At the top is a bramble of copper-wound strings, each one hooked through the eye of a silver tuning key. The strings are stretched down a long, slim neck, its frets tarnished, the wood worn by years of fingers pressing chords and picking notes. The body of the Madeira is shaped like an enormous yellow pear, one that was slightly damaged in shipping. The blond wood has been chipped and gouged to gray, particularly where the pick guard fell off years ago. No, it’s not a beautiful instrument, but it still lets me make music, and for that I will always treasure it.”
If a simile is the poor cousin of a metaphor, why not ditch them altogether and use only metaphors? For the simple reason that a metaphor in the wrong place can stand out awkwardly, like a man wearing black tie to a cheap burger bar.
If you see a beautiful setting on the screen, the visuals can be amazing (no doubt about that). But you’re still forced to accept the director’s version of a “beautiful setting.”
Students use their five senses and a graphic organizer to brainstorm ideas for writing a report on a recent school event and to help them think about interesting words to include in their report. See the lesson plan.
1. Good descriptive writing includes many vivid sensory details that paint a picture and appeals to all of the reader’s senses of sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste when appropriate. Descriptive writing may also paint pictures of the feelings the person, place or thing invokes in the writer. In the video section below, watch a teacher use a Five Senses Graphic Organizer as a planning strategy for descriptive writing.
- What is Descriptive Writing?
- The purpose of descriptive writing
- Descriptive Writing Techniques
- Descriptive Writing Examples
- Types of Descriptive Writing
- Features of Descriptive Writing
- Tips for good descriptive writing work
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